Dear PP sign

One-woman counter-protest breaks up anti-choice vigil by chanting “yeast infections!”

Showing that sometimes it doesn’t take much to be an activist, a Planned Parenthood supporter in Portland successfully broke up an anti-choice protest with nothing more than a hand-made sign featuring a cartoon vulva and a grating chant of “yeast infections!” 

When Mary Numair noticed protestors gathering at the Planned Parenthood clinic down the block from where she was working, she decided to show her gratitude for the organization that treated her chronic yeast infections when she was uninsured. Slate reports:

Numair’s best friend and co-worker clocked in early so she could head out to the protest, where she planted herself between two families with children. “In my first 30 seconds of walking out there, I did get called a whore,” Numair said. “One woman was shaking her head. I knelt down to her kid and said, ‘Do you know about yeast infections?’ ”

Onlookers gave Numair the thumbs-up, and some passing cars honked in support, but she was the only counter-protester on the scene. Still, with a spontaneous chant, she managed to break up the protest in under a half-hour. “I don’t know why I started chanting ‘Yeast infections!’ but it just came out. I have this cold, so it was just this obnoxious squeak, cheerleader-like. And I started doing high kicks, which I don’t normally do, in my skinny jeans.” A religious leader was guiding a circle of protestors in prayers for Numair—but as her chants got louder and more grating, they stopped.

I’m on board with pretty much anything — including being straight-up obnoxious — that makes it as hard as possible for anti-choicers to gather in front of clincs. A recent British study found that patients found the presence of anti-choice protestors outside clinics distressing, regardless of the protestors’ behavior; a silent prayer vigil by so-called “sidewalk counselors” was just as much of an unwanted intrusion as a more aggressive protest with graphic signs.

Unfortunately, our legal system apparently thinks anti-choicers’ right to free speech takes precedence over patients’ right to access a legal medical procedure without harassment and intimidation. As long as that’s the case, the only (imperfect) solution is countering their speech with our speech — and if it’s shouting about yeast infections that makes anti-choicers as uncomfortable as they make those seeking abortions, so be it.

Header image credit: Mary Numair/Slate

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like,, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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